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Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Review: Is it the best mid-range smartphone?
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is priced at Rs. 13,999 for the 4GB RAM variant.
Xiaomi recently upgraded its Redmi Note series by launching two new smartphones in the Indian market. Built on the success of India's top selling Android smartphone of the year 2017- Redmi Note 4, the new smartphones bring some noteworthy upgrades and aim to write a new success story for the Chinese tech giant on Indian soil.
- Big value for money deal
- Best-in-class 18:9 aspect ratio screen
- Capable camera hardware
- Lag-free performance
- Good battery backup
- Repetitive design feels outdated
- No dedicated microSD card slot
- No Android Oreo out-of-the box
- No Type C port
The company introduced Redmi Note 5 at Rs. 9,999 for the 3GB RAM+32GB storage variant and also introduced a Pro variant at a starting price of Rs. 13,999. Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is the first smartphone to be powered by Snapdragon 636 CPU, which is Qualcomm's latest 600 series chipset. The Pro variant also features a dual-lens rear camera setup, a feature you will not find in the standard Redmi Note 5 variant.
We have tested both the devices and here's what we think of the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
Design and Build
Redmi Note 5 Pro is a new age mid-range Xiaomi device. It offers comparatively more screen-to-body ratio than company's previous handsets in sub Rs. 18k price segment. Xiaomi has done what the company is quite good at it. The company has borrowed design elements from the two best handsets available today. Resultant, Redmi Note 5 Pro looks like a blend of Google Pixel 2 XL and Apple iPhone X. The 18:9 aspect ratio screen with rounded corners reminds me of Pixel 2 XL's front fascia. As far as rear panel is concerned, the resemblance to iPhone X due to placement of vertical dual-lens camera setup at top left corner is impossible to ignore.
iPhone X inspired camera module
And if I ignore the new vertical camera setup, Redmi Note 5 Pro is technically a Redmi Note 5 from rear panel, which once again is basically a Redmi Note 4 with some cosmetic changes. In a nutshell, we are actually looking at a design which is now almost three years old and looks dated. It will be big setback if Xiaomi followed the same design approach with the next iteration of Redmi Note handsets.
Irrespective of the fact that the design is somewhat copied and dated, consumers would not mind an iPhone X lookalike in budget price-point. As far as aesthetics are concerned, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is exactly the same size of Redmi Note 5. However, it feels comparatively lighter in hands than the standard Note 5 variant even though both the smartphones have a 4,000 mAh battery unit.
Good screen-to-body ratio
The design of both the handsets- Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro is not entirely metal. The top and bottom of Redmi Note 5 and Note 5 Pro have plastic ends with metal finishing that house the antennas for connectivity. Redmi Note 5 Pro has rounded corners and curved edges for comfortable handling. The buttons are placed ergonomically for easy in-hand feel.
There's no Type C port but the standard USB 2.0 charging port. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack and an IR blaster placed at bottom and top of the handset respectively. Overall, Redmi Note 5 Pro has a tried and tested design but the Redmi series desperately needs a design change.
Vibrant 18:9 aspect ratio screens
Xiaomi had to catch up with the competition and has offered a taller 18:9 aspect ratio display with the new handsets. The Redmi Note 5 Pro sports a 5.99-inch full screen display with 2160 x 1080 pixel resolution. It is by far the best screen I have tested in this price-point. The display is vibrant and offers better contrast ratio than other smartphones in competition like Honor7X, and Moto G5S Plus. I even found the screen on Redmi Note 5 Pro a tad more vibrant than the screen on Redmi Note 5. It can be a device specific issue but the difference is quite visible in color reproduction of both the units.
The display on Redmi Note 5 Pro is bright and quite usable in daylight. You also get Gorilla Glass protection, however Xiaomi hasn't mentioned about the generation of Gorilla Glass used to protect the screen. The display settings allow you to change the contrast level as per your requirement. Besides, you can also turn on the Reading mode to reduce Blue light effect on your eyes.
Capable Camera hardware
Unlike the standard Redmi Note 5, Redmi Note 5 Pro steps up the camera game by packing a 12MP+5MP dual-lens rear camera setup. Xiaomi has also made some significant changes in the front camera department and has offered a 20MP front-facing camera with Beautify 4.0 mode. Xiaomi claims that the selfie camera uses complex algorithms developed especially for Mi Fans in India to adapt to beards and accessories such as bindis and nose rings.
Coming on to camera performance, the 12MP Sony sensor uses 1.25 micron pixels and works on f/2.2 aperture, which is not very brilliant and shows its shortcomings while taking pictures in low-light conditions. The smaller aperture affects the sharpness, crispness and autofocus abilities of the handset in challenging lighting. The 1.25 micron pixels help to some extent and let you capture detailed shots. The images shot in ample light look crisp and show good contrast ratio.
Good Bokeh effect
The dual-camera setup also captures appealing bokeh effect; thanks to the 5MP secondary Samsung sensor. But on a closer look the camera seemed harsh at edges of the subject. I also tested the Redmi Note 5 image output and noticed that its camera does somewhat better job in capturing accurate color tones as compared to Redmi Note 5 Pro. One reason can be the difference in color reproduction by the IPS LCD screens on the two variants. Nevertheless, images captured by Redmi Note 5 Pro are better than most of the handsets in this price-point and the handsets makes for an excellent everyday cameras smartphone.
Impressive Selfie shots
What's even more interesting is the front-facing camera which uses a 20MP sensor and utilizes machine learning to enhance selfie output. The selfie camera on Redmi Note 5 Pro delivers impressive software-tuned images that will please consumers who are fond of Snapchat and Instagram stories. The software driven depth sensing effect is good and images show impressive bokeh effect. Redmi Note 5 also offers HDR mode in selfie but the camera switches it off during bokeh shots.
Overall, Redmi Note 5 Pro is a good camera device and justifies its price-point for the imaging performance it brings to the table.
Hardware and Software
Redmi Note 5 Pro is the world's first smartphone to feature the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chipset. Xiaomi claims that the Redmi Note 5 Pro blows the competition out of the water with its eight Kryo 260 cores, Adreno 509 GPU, and up to 6GB of DDR4X RAM. The standard Redmi Note 5 is backed by the tried and tested Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 CPU. In real-life performance, Redmi Note 5 Pro's 4GB RAM variant is pretty fast, even snappier than the Redmi Note 5 in app loading and general screen animations. You can pretty much run anything on this handset without any major performance slowdown. Gameplay is smooth and even the most graphical intense games rendered smoothly. Memory management worked well on 4GB RAM variant which made me say that the 6GB RAM variant will undoubtedly come as a delight to users.
Both the handsets run on MIUI 9.2 custom skin deployed over the dated Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Yes, you heard it right. The new Redmi devices do not offer the latest Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the box, which is a bummer. Nevertheless, the MIUI 9 is very feature rich, efficient and looks much more refined than company's previous MIUI versions. You get Gesture support, one-handed mode, Mi Mover, iOS like Quick ball shortcut widget, Second space to manage apps and data and a dedicated screen to show important updates, news, calendar events, etc. when you swipe right on the homescreen. Besides, MIUI 9 also allows you to change UI themes, capture images with fingerprint scanner, 5GB of free cloud storage and a lot more.
Battery and Connectivity
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro draws its power from a respectable 4,000 mAh battery unit, which is 100 mAh unit smaller than the battery that powered Redmi Note 4. However, the battery unit combined with MIUI 9 and efficient CPU will not disappoint you. The smartphone can easily last a day and even more depending upon your usage pattern. As far as connectivity is concerned, Redmi Note 5 Pro supports 4G VoLTE and has Wi-Fi 802.11, Bluetooth, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a micro-USB. You also get an IR blaster to control smart appliances from your phone.
Redmi Note 5 Pro (4GB RAM) is a great buy at Rs. 13,999 and is a better performer than any other smartphone we have tested in sub Rs. 15,000 price-point. It offers a vibrant 18:9 aspect ratio screen and capable camera hardware to please multimedia lovers and shutterbugs respectively. Xiaomi needs to work on the design part as the repeated look and feel is now reaching its threshold. Android Oreo is still missing which is a definite letdown but is something that time can cure when Xiaomi rolls out the OTA update.
We would also like Xiaomi to think about adding a dedicated microSD card slot and some required accessories in the package, as we believe India's beloved smartphone brand can do this much for its loyal customers. Can you Xiaomi?